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Monday, February 21, 2011

"Fair is Fair" Wisconsin & Unions


That line from the 1985 movie "The Legend of Billy Jean"  reminds me of what's happening now in the state of Wisconsin! The Helen Slater character back then was talking about having a boy's father pay for her brother's damaged scooter his son had trashed, but the father refuses to pay. Her cry throughout the movie is ; "FAIR is FAIR"

some_textTurn the clock ahead 26 years to the 2011 battle between the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker(r), and the state labor unions. Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away. In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

Some 385,000 workers belonged to a union in Wisconsin, out of a population of 5,654,774(2009) accounting for more than 15 percent of wage and salary workers in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Some of the proposed concessions called for by the Governor to help close a $3.6 billion deficit are a roughly eight percent wage cut for 176,000 government workers, to pay half the cost of their pensions - typically 5.8% of pay for state workers - and at least 12% of their health insurance premiums. FAIR! I pay 15% of my health care premiums as well as co-payments at my job.

It also requires collective bargaining units to conduct annual votes to maintain certification, a costly procedure, and eliminates the right of unions to have dues deducted from worker paychecks.

But Gov. Walker wants more from the unions then shared sacrifice, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain. The bill that has inspired the demonstrations (Read the bill for yourself (2011 Wisconsion Senate Bill 13 ....) would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state’s workers, in effect busting public-employee unions. Gov. Walker has a history of going against unions. In September of 2003 as Milwaukee County executive, scores of union workers gathered at the local courthouse to protest layoffs he had ordered as part of an aggressive effort to balance the budget and avoid what he said would otherwise be necessary tax increases. During his eight-year tenure in Milwaukee County, Walker never raised property taxes. He cut the county workforce by 20%, improved its bond rating and gave back hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own salary as part of the effort to trim spending. But he also saw his relations with local unions deteriorate. Union leaders say Walker never negotiated in good faith and had a singular solution to every budget problem: cut. Under his watch, the county privatized public jobs, laid off workers and placed others on furlough.
What is -Collective Bargaining? It is a type of negotiation used by employees to work with their employers. During a collective bargaining period, workers' representatives approach the employer and attempt to negotiate a contract which both sides can agree with. Typical issues covered in a labor contract are hours, wages, benefits, working conditions, and the rules of the workplace. Once both sides have reached a contract that they find agreeable, it is signed and kept in place for a set period of time, most commonly three years. The final contract is called a collective bargaining agreement, to reflect the fact that it is the result of a collective bargaining effort.

“It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” said George Meany -- the former president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O -- in 1955. As James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation put it in a commentary on the New York Times’ website, “The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers, however, don’t generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money.”

So in ensconce Government workers unions are bargaining for the tax money you and I pay to our state and local government. They get more, we pay more! FAIR?

Up through the 1950s, unions widely agreed that collective bargaining had no place in government. But starting with Wisconsin in 1959, states began to allow collective bargaining in government. The influx of dues and members quickly changed the union movement’s tune, and collective bargaining in government is now widespread. As a result unions can now insist on laws that serve their interests – at the expense of the common good.

Walker said removing some collective bargaining rights would save money and help stop people being laid off. Hmmm FAIR?

" 'It applies to me' Overall what we're talking about is something that's incredibly FAIR — it applies to me and my family, to my cabinet, the legislature as well as all the other workers at the state and local government level," Walker added. Firefighters and Police are exempt.

The emergency plan he wants the Legislature to pass would address this year's $137 million shortfall and start dealing with the $3.6 billion hole expected by mid-2013. The benefits concessions would amount to $30 million this year, but the largest savings Walker proposed comes from refinancing debt to save $165 million.
Walker said not passing the bill by Friday would make even deeper cuts necessary and possibly result in laying off 1,500 workers over the next four months. 14 Democratic state senators who left the state last week to avoid voting on a bill that that severely curbs state workers' bargaining rights.

Who's right? These are tough economic times we live in. EVERYONE must share in the sacrifices equally. If you belong to a union do you have an advantage over those who don't or those who have no union to join? Obviously, YES! If our employee comes to us and says we are cutting your salary, benefits or work rules, there is no one to fight for us. We either except it or find another job. Private unions have a place in America and shouldn't give up the right of Collective Bargaining. However, Government Unions are different as they effect all of us. Should they be treated diffently, YES! Should it be as drastic as Govenor Walker wants? NO!

I say to both sides, NEGOTIATE in the true American way. Running away like those 14 democrats is just plain silly. Come up with a solution that is best for everyone, The Workers, Government and mostly the people of the state of WISCONSIN. Don't hide your head in the sand,or Chicago, face this issue head on and work together. It's NOT about YOU, Gov. Walker, it's about whats FAIR to all and what's best for the people of Wisconsin! Your nuclear solution is the best, says YOU!? Ramming something through just because you have the majority isn't what this country is all about! REMEMBER..........